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Tiling over Tiles: Pros & Cons

Tiling over Tiles: Pros & Cons
February 25, 2022

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When planning home renovation work involving room re-tiling, one of the decisions you’ll need to make is whether to simply tile over the existing tile floors and walls without removing the old tiles first. Although this approach to re-tiling a room has many advantages, it also has a few drawbacks that you must consider.

Pros of Tiling over Tiles

The primary advantage of tiling over tiles is the amount of time you’ll save. This method also eliminates the stress involved with demolition and tile removal. Tiling over tiles means there is no need to spend time removing old tiles and cleaning the bare floor afterward. If your old tiles are in good condition (properly cut with a tile saw; no evidence of cracks, chips, or damage) but appear old and outdated, tiling over them is easier than removing them.

Another advantage is the cost-effectiveness of this approach. The required tile tools and materials are similar to those required for a new tiling project: an angle grinder, notched trowels, belt sander with 80-grit sanding belts, ceramic tile, and thinset mortar. If you’ve tiled rooms yourself before, you may already have some of them, so you won’t have to invest in new tools.

Process of floor coating

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Cons of Tiling over Tiles

Although tiling over tiles is a fast and cost-effective method for re-tiling, any existing imperfections with your subfloor cannot be fixed by a tiling over tile project. For example, if your subfloor is uneven, you may need to use a leveling compound to make the second tile layer level flat and even. You will need to remove broken, chipped, or damaged tiles while prepping your old floor. If there are numerous damaged tiles, it may be more efficient to remove the old tiles entirely and redo the tiling from scratch.

Another disadvantage is tile weight, especially ceramic tiles. Tiling over tiles adds the equivalent of a second floor in weight, which may stress the underlying floor or support structure. This issue compounds with room size; the larger the surface, the more weight added to the floor, and the higher the potential risks to the underlying floor.

Ceramic tile weighs 4 to 6 lbs. per square foot, whereas stone and decorative tile can reach 8 lbs. per square foot. Most subfloors have the load capacity to support the weight of one layer of tile floors, but a second layer may exceed this capacity, potentially damaging or cracking the substrate. The only way to know your floor’s exact weight capacity is to consult a structural engineer and conduct a thorough house inspection.

Male worker makes measurements

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Height Considerations

Tiling over tiles can increase your floor height by ⅓" to 1" depending on the dimensions of your new tiles. You may need to adjust the length of doors and evaluate your furniture and other major appliances to ensure that the new flooring height does not cause an obstruction or pose a tripping risk. If you lay tiles in front of a major home appliance, it may make it more challenging, if not impossible, to remove that appliance for repairs or replacements. As a consequence of the extra height, you may need to do additional work to accommodate the new layer of tiles, such as trimming doors or ramping to account for the height differences. The extra effort may potentially negate the cost savings you expected to make by choosing to tile over tiles.

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Evaluation and Prep Work

Before deciding if tiling over tiles is the right option for your project, begin by evaluating the condition of the tiles on the bottom that serve as the foundation. If you find one or two tiles that have become loose, remove and re-bond them using a tile adhesive, such as thinset tile mortar. If there are gaps between the tiles, fill these in using grout. As part of your evaluation, lightly knocking or tapping on your tiles with a hard object can reveal whether the bonding agent is still intact. If you hear a hollow or drum-like sound, that tile’s adhesive is compromised, and you will need to remove it. Otherwise, it is safe for tiling over. If you discover that most tiles need to be removed, then re-tiling from scratch may be better.

Contractors Direct: Your Source for Tile Tools

Tiling over tiles can save you time and money, but it is critical to consider your substrate and the current condition of the tiles before you begin your re-tiling project to avoid costly errors.

The right tiling tools can help you achieve a professional finish, whether you choose to tile-over-tile or re-tile your space from scratch. Contractors Direct has the best selection of high-quality tiling tools and equipment, so you always have the right gear for your project.